How the head chef of Michelin-starred Simpsons restaurant in Edgbaston, Leo Kattou, went from working in the family fish and chip shop to being crowned British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year 2021
Tell us about your cooking
My approach is to keep things very simple. I like to use good quality ingredients and treat them with respect to produce the best flavours.
How did you become a chef?
Having a Greek heritage, I’ve always been around food. When I was young, we sat down as a family at mealtimes. Food was such a big part of family life but I didn’t want to work in our fish and chip shop forever. I told my dad that I wanted to be a chef but he played some reverse psychology by saying that I should stick to cooking fish and chips. Little did I know that he’d already spoken to his friend Andreas Antona about giving me an opportunity at Simpsons.
I joined Simpsons on work experience in 2009 and started working there weekends. I was also studying at catering college and working part-time during the week at both the fish and chip shop and Andreas’ restaurant in Kenilworth, Beef.
What do you eat at home?
I rarely eat at home as I tend to eat out a lot. When I do have the time what I cook depends on what mood I’m in. It will either be a Sunday roast on any day of the week, or a Greek barbecue – I love a BBQ.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
The best chef in the world is Daniel Humm from 11 Madison Park. I love his food philosophy and people should take note of his mantra “Make it Nice’ because it holds a lot of truth in its meaning. We’re lucky to have many brilliant chefs in Birmingham, but for me the best has to be Luke Tipping. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am now. I also have a huge amount of respect for Matt Cheal, who taught me so much during his time at Simpsons.
Is the customer always right?
Yes, but there are occasions when we need to bite our tongue and agree to disagree!
Share a cooking tip
When it comes to cooking meat or a roast bird, cook it low and slow to retain and increase flavour and make the meat more tender.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
It’s as much for the experience as the food itself. I always remember eating octopus and grilled fish in a beach restaurant in Cyprus during a family holiday. I’ve tried cooking octopus since and it tasted good but it just wasn’t the same as back in Cyprus.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven would have to be octopus and hell would be anything from the squash family (butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato) and oysters.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
At a Greek wedding in Cyprus the family tradition was to serve sheep’s brain inside its head. I looked, tasted and said ‘no thanks’!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Easy, I’d be a golfer. I’ve played golf since I was four and if I could play every day I would. I still like to play two rounds on my days off when possible. I won several golf awards including a Young Masters when I was young.